If you blinked, you probably missed it: a rather interesting 2020 presidential poll came out this week. Not one of the endless tracking polls that flood RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight – websites anxiously refreshed dozens of times per day by political obsessives. This poll in some sense offers a more illuminating picture of the state of the Democratic primary race.
Reporter Tom Lobiondo revealed the results of a secret survey gauging the sentiments not of the general voting public, but the party consultant class. Democratic operative types now overwhelmingly think Elizabeth Warren will be the nominee. The poll, taken on some super-secret email listserv where savvy professionals no doubt share profound private insights, show a full 61 percent of consultants believe Warren will win the nomination – up from a mere 8 percent in March, the last time the poll was taken. 24 percent say Biden, and 12 percent say Harris. Incredibly, Sanders does not even register on their little survey.
The poll is not interesting necessarily because it has any predictive power, but because it’s a window into the thinking of party insiders. For one thing, rather than having any special analytical abilities – which is supposed to be their professional MO – these people simply react to conventional wisdom like anybody else. The betting markets currently agree that Warren is the favorite. Indeed, a theme has emerged in the prestige press that portrays Warren as the candidate most able to unite the party’s disparate factions. She has a healthy share of holdover Clinton supporters, combined with over-educated ‘progressives’ who for some reason don’t like Bernie (too uncouth). She’s a loyal party-builder, whereas Sanders is still regarded as a party intruder. And she was first on the ‘Impeachment Now!’ gravy train; Warren’s call to begin proceedings immediately coincided with the beginning of her current poll ascendance.
Curiously, these operatives have always been a bit sour on Biden. He might be losing his marbles, but he’s still led the polls for six months and that shows no signs of changing any time soon. The consultants are clearly ‘wish-casting’ to some extent: trying to actualize their own preferences. Biden might be a good guy, they reckon, but he just cannot be the standard-bearer of the current Democratic party. That would be viscerally offensive. (Until Biden offers them an overpaid gig. Then it’ll be fine).
Further, Sanders being written out of contention is a sign of how oblivious these people are. There might be some data points that don’t bode particularly well for him, but he’s still well-positioned enough to win Iowa and New Hampshire that to totally dismiss his chances at this juncture is absurd. But the wish-casting consultants also find Sanders viscerally offensive, so they’re trying to will him out of the running.
Warren, however, flatters their sensibilities in some hazily-defined way. Which if nothing else should raise a few red flags about Warren.